🪟 21 - The speck in your brother’s eye
Frame & Axiom #21 (Part 5): On being trespassed.
Table of contents
PART 1: Where All Begins
PART 2: The Moving Being
PART 3: The Court of Reality
PART 4: The Canvas of Reality
PART 5: The Realm of Others
The speck in your brother’s eye
It is inevitable that we will find inconsistencies in the reflection of ourselves in others. One can adjust himself to where he finds another, in constant contouring against unevenness and towards clarity. But oftentimes the state of the other will be misrepresented and misjudged, for man is but a minute and fragile field of judgement, and he will find his framing contoured untowardly against the other. Social competence is attained in the masterful navigation of these inevitable inconsistencies. Now to this end, I wish to refrain from elucidating beyond what I already have, for first I am no master of disputes and negotiation tactics, and second that is better derived from the school of experience. What I am concerned with here, is being on the receiving end of inevitable missteps.
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🪟 21 - The speck in your brother’s eye
The framing I have found to be effective in regards to the narration of vicissitudes is equally applicable to communal life. In the meeting of representations, it is profitable to be precisely this — optimistic in expectation and accepting in hindsight. To use such language presumes that a position can be developed on these things, and rightfully so. Oftentimes narratives lay themselves out before us as translucent marbles to be skimmed and used, of which our opinion of the Other is part. And of all possible narrations, few events pose more difficulty than the misfortune of being trespassed. A man can handle disasters of all sorts, being stricken with illness, and even in the nearness of death. But being deceived by one who is trusted and loved? That poses the adversity to rule all else. One is afflicted not so much in illness as he is in the betrayal of his confidant. How amusing it is that this is the case! But I wish to tone it down for now, and begin with milder cases.
In the momentary agitation of, say, an accusation of negligence with household chores, the weight of the present moves in a manner analogous to the phenomena of anxiety. Over a discernible threat, one finds the immediacies of perception advanced to the foreground. The physiological being in its primitivity becomes aroused towards a defence of sorts, perhaps through rage or despair, while the reflective powers of rationality encourage logical coherence towards an image of the ideal, perhaps through nudges of self-restraint. But what holds at the centre, from which all such movements are hinged? Here I run the risk of sounding bland and monotonous, for it is none other than framing. A man who sees himself larger than the other is compelled to a defence that is more condescending in nature. A woman who sees herself punier than the other tends to a defence that is more in-drawn, perhaps of despair or a cold apathy. Another who sees clearly will more readily find composure, for her patience is undistorted by illusions of worth. In confronting instances more than others, one’s secrets, unbeknownst likely even to the bearer, will be revealed in subtlety to others as a crack in the wall. But composure has nothing yet to say of after-effects.
This dynamic of threat-and-defence is not exclusive to individual relations. One can find oneself equally misstepped on other levels, in individual-to-society or group-to-group relations. If a man is not vigilant with adjusting for those petty missteps, he will in time begin to entertain bitterness and resentment as guests in his heart. What is at stake? The bitter man shakes his fist toward the Other. Only one cause explains his misery. Should they conform to his wishes! Obey his demands! Feel the full force of his fury! Then only would he consent to peace at all. But at last, in the indulgence of his self-righteous anger he picks a losing battle. There awaits no reward for resentment. Time has nothing but pain in store for it. He persists at his own peril.
What then is a just treatment of trespassing? Life has repeated its lesson to me: to be optimistic in expectation and accepting in hindsight. The first level of analysis ought to always begin in the inward as opposed to the outward. The sins of the Other is no different. But as the heart is delicate, it must be subordinated to the mind, and there I will make my appeal. Assent will be given only when the mind sees that the appeasement of vengeance sows no promise other than pain. To borrow the words of Seneca: “anger will cease, and become more gentle, if it knows that every day it will have to appear before the judgment seat. … How calm, how sound, and careless is it when our spirit has either received praise or reprimand, and when our secret inquisitor and censor has made his report about our morals?” In solidarity with the sentiment of the Stoics (and also the Buddhists) I conclude that those who do wrong injure only themselves, for this my life experience has affirmed. But in more directly pragmatic interests, how can one first assume that his offender has not beaten himself up over the sins he has committed? We humans are too hasty with judgement and too impoverished of reflection. A man enlightened enough to see the array of narratives laid out before him ought to always pick in favour of doubt — for that is a sign of reverence to his fallibility. In a losing battle, prudence spares injury of him and others. I had recounted a pattern of thought awhile back — as when on the road and a vehicle trespasses my own, speeding ahead: ‘perhaps she is in labour’.
The afflicted one may thus remain justly unmoved by the temptation to bitterness. But he too possesses the option to respond even more radically, and now I find myself drawn to the story of Christ — beyond the stoic shades of indifference, towards the radiance of love. That the love of wrongdoers is irrational and absurd is only the case when one’s view is overcome by emotion, when the weakness of another masks his own humanity. Indeed, taken up in offence one forgets the other to be human at all, let alone seeing the self-harm he commits through his own iniquities. Is this not the wisdom of “love your enemies”? Man exists equally seeded, varying ever so slightly in manifestation. Or in Kierkegaardian prose, “individuals are nothing but modifications of the eternal substance of existence”. Resentment loathes any such clarity.
Towards responding justly toward the sins of others, one ought to look no further than the person of Christ. Christ’s story points to a selfless love, agapē, that manifests in affectionate acts of generosity but also in a form of melancholy, as Christ prayed of his torturers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. But nothing is further from justness than resentment, no matter how it may be justified. Such a radical orientation has a name — forgiveness. To forgive is radical, for it is an agitation of sight in an exertion of total acceptance, that repositions the self and the offender in a violent upheaval. Forgiveness is violent. The doorway to it sits at the centre of the heart, where in all its fragility one must unilaterally, often silently, break its bonds to resentment asunder. The free man prefers what is effortless. He places fault external to him, filling his cup of resentment towards his enemies unhesitatingly, seeking his reward in the currency of pity or worse, in cynicism and viciousness. But in his self-righteousness he will receive no less than the rebuke of Christ — as it was spoken in his Sermon on the Mount: “you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye”.
The mature soul peers inwardly, cognizant of his own fallibility, doing everything necessary to return clarity to his sight. If he is embittered, he must confront it, for matters of the heart must be resolved at its source. Is he not already armed within, with the spirit to love without conditions? Through it he will be able to spare a hand of goodwill to the other, without diminishment. Without diminishment — that is to celebrate in the joys of his enemies as much as his own, and to not celebrate secretly in their woes, thinking, ‘he has gotten what he deserved’. Ah! Now I realise I have managed only a poor counterfeit of Solomon’s counsel: “do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice”. The mature soul, or he who forgets, for he forgets their offences as easily as he forgets their applause, seeing that all such things are to be taken lightly. The mature soul participates with the Other in humanness. To unconditionally reflect the Other in equal stature is the narrow path from away from those dire disproportions born of resentment, and towards clarity.
Is this not characteristic of a mature soul but a superhuman? I am inclined to say so. I must confess that I am no Christ, and my descriptions of the mature soul only point to my ultimate ideals, that which I have found it just to aim towards, as opposed to my being anywhere close to embodying them in totality. The Taoists speak of living in harmony with the Tao as an eternal struggle. That is precisely what I mean when I speak of justness.
Till next time,
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